I sometimes participate in a subreddit focused on Fantasy Fiction, and it has been a source of many good recommendations. At the same time, I’ve noticed something interesting. Length.
Fantasy fiction seems to be all about the length.
Why so long fantasy fiction?
When I first started reading fantasy and science fiction, I’m pretty sure I was in fifth grade and A Wrinkle in Time (lovely book, two hideous movies) by Madline L’Engle got me going.
After that, I’m not sure what came first. I believe it was The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – a series. I then read a 12-book Conan series. The Belgariad, a five-book series and its sequel, The Mallorean, a five-book series.
In there was Thomas Covenant, at the time three 3-book series.
For a very long time, it was all about trilogies, but today, it is far more.
Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time series was started by Robert Jordan and finished by prolific author Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death.
This joker is pretty long, as far as fantasy fiction goes. Fourteen books plus a prequel clock in at nearly 12,000 pages total in paperback. Wow. And it is a well-loved and quite despised series.
Yet, that’s nothing. The Malazan series of books currently spans 23 novels in the “Malazan Empire” and consists of a range of stand-alone novels, trilogies, and longer series.
I mean, wow.
Even my current fantasy read, the five-book Monarchies of God series, by Paul Kearney, is 1,500+ pages. It’s awfully good though! The length lets you really dig into characters and scenes, though truth be told, I think some series are seriously padded.
In the end
When I read The Lord of the Rings, I hated the fact that the story ended. Those characters were my first love. I devoured the appendix. I dug into the various “unfinished tales” books, and grabbed every J.R.R. Tolkien pastishe or cheap knock-off I could find.
Anything for that hit.
However, nothing brought Frodo, Sam, and Gimli (always my favorite) back to life, no matter how badly I wanted it.
I love the short novel. There’s a real joy to it.
However, Jordan, Sanderson, Steven Erickson, and others who write sprawling, epic series, are on to something. Their fans get to immerse for years, sometimes decades, in these settings with these characters they know and love.